City of design day twenty three – Fred Ward

Friday, 18 November 2023


Fred Ward is best known for his simple aesthetic, high-quality craftsmanship and pioneering use of unstained Australian timbers. Ward’s work was clearly influenced by European modernism and the Arts and Crafts movement, however the style remains distinctly his own.

Although commercially successful, and awarded as an industrial designer, it was only after his death in 1990 that Ward’s furniture received the recognition it deserved. He is now considered a pioneer of Australian Post-War furniture design.

Believing that Australian design needed to create its own identity, rather than emulate what was happening overseas, Ward created a distinct aesthetic characterised by waxed native timber and clean, practical and sturdy forms.

The majority of Ward’s pieces were commissioned for major Canberra institutions, such as the National Library of Australia, the Reserve Bank and the Australian National University, and he also designed furniture for department store, Myer’s, Heritage range.

In 2014, Ward’s work was included in the National Gallery of Australia’s seminal exhibition, Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design.

Image:Unit range, armchair (1932), Fred WARD (designer) THE MYER EMPORIUM LTD, Melbourne (manufacturer). Photo via the National Gallery of Victoria.

City of design day twenty three - Fred Ward